What has happened?
- On March 1, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who held the position from 2007-2012 was sentenced to three years in prison in connection with corruption and influence peddling.
- With Monday’s verdict, Sarkozy, a right-wing politician, has become the second president in modern-day France – after Jacques Chirac, to be convicted for corruption.
- But Sarkozy’s conviction marks the first time that a former president has been convicted on charges that relate to acts committed during his time in the country’s highest office.
- Sarkozy has, however, maintained that he is innocent and has said that he will appeal the verdict.
Charges against Sarkozy?
- Sarkozy has been accused of bribing a judge with the promise of an important position,
- In exchange for receiving confidential information about another trial that the former French president is facing.
- The Paris court said that after leaving office, Sarkozy offered a secure job to judge Gilbert Azibert in Monaco in return for confidential information about the trial that alleged that,
- Sarkozy had accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 election campaign.
- According to French media reports, the court said the trio of Sarkozy, his lawyer and thirty-year-old friend Thierry Herzog and Azibert acted together in a “corruption pact”.
- Herzog and Azibert were also handed over the same sentence by the court.
- Herzog, who is a criminal lawyer, has also been barred from practicing for the next five years.
- As part of investigations related to this case, Sarkozy and Herzog’s phones were tapped in 2013-2014, which revealed that Sarkozy used the alias “Paul Bismuth” to discuss Judge Azibert.
- In France this case is referred to as the “wiretapping case” or the “eavesdropping” case because of the route that investigators took.
Another case related to Libya
- In March 2018, Sarkozy was indicted by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) for passive corruption, concealment of embezzlement of Libyan public funds and illegal campaign financing.
- This was related to a case in which Sarkozy was alleged to have received funding worth millions of euros from Libya with the help of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi for his 2007 campaign.
- Another case against Sarkozy is likely to go on trial from March 17 and is referred to as the Bygmalion affair.
- The allegations are that during his re-election bid in 2012, Sarkozy’s party overspent and tried to hide the costs with the help of a PR company.
What does this mean for Sarkozy?
- The sentence does not mean that he will physically go to prison since two of the three years in the sentence have been suspended.
- Further, Sarkozy may be allowed to serve his remaining sentence form his home under conditions similar to a house arrest.
- French newspaper l’Humanité said that Sarkozy will likely serve his sentence under house arrest with an electronic surveillance device.
Importance for France
- Even so, his conviction is historic for the country.
- Since the establishment of the French Fifth Republic by Charles de Gaulle in 1958,
- “Criminal cases against elected politicians have often failed either to make it to court or to end in a conviction, let alone a prison sentence.
- On March 1st a Paris court took a step closer to ending an era of impunity”.
- The Fifth Republic is France’s current republican system of government.
- It was established by Charles de Gaulle under the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958.
- The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the Fourth Republic,
- Replacing the former parliamentary republic with a semi-presidential (or dual-executive) system that split powers between a prime minister as head of government and a president as head of state.
Q) In the parliamentary form of Government, the members of the Council of Ministers are collectively responsible to?
- The Head of State
- The Speaker of the Lower House
- The Lower House of the Parliament
- The Prime Minister